Bird Children


January 30, 2012

I have been extremely busy, so my apologies for the lack of posting recently. I thought I would share these images with you, though. They are from a strange little book a friend was kind enough to lend me. The book was published in 1912, and while the illustrations no doubt have a charming beauty to them, there is also something quite bizarre about them as well.

 What is impressive about the book is the diversity of bird life that it showcases, as well as what some of the little rhymes reveal. I've had the book in my possession for about a week now, and have thought about it quite a bit. It many ways it is intended to be a playful little children's book, but in others, it says so much about our relationship to the natural world then and now.

Bird-of-Paradise: Any colorful, elaborately plumaged species is represented as being female in the book, even though almost always it is the male bird in nature that exhibits this kind flamboyance. We certainly don't want to give any wrong ideas about how men and women should dress and behave ; )

Snowy Egret (Heron): At the time the book was published, so many species of birds were under threat from the hat industry. Birds such as the Snowy Egret (here referred to as a heron) and Carolina Parakeet were prized for their feathers to adorn ladies' hats. Thankfully this trend has gone by the wayside, and the Snowy Egret is no longer on the brink of extinction.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker: Heavy logging in the late 19th, and early 20th century was already leading to massive habitat loss and thus the demise of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. It was generally considered extinct by 1920, with a lot of spotty, mostly unconfirmed sightings since then. It was almost shocking to come across this image and rhyme in a 1912 children's book.

I've always perceived House Sparrow to be these Napoleon Complex bullies of the avian world. A species of European sparrow, they were introduced to North America via 100 birds purchased by a Mr. Nicolas Pike for $200 from England and released in Brooklyn, NY in 1851. They have been successfully adapting to our human modified landscapes ever since, but sometimes at the expense of native species such at the Eastern Bluebird. I kind of like the disapproving flower face children in this one. 

I don't have much to say about this one other than: flower face children approve!


Well, that's it for now, little bird children. I'm hoping to get another post in this week, but we'll see how it goes. Happy Monday to you!

Thanks to Rebecca over at the amazing Storywoods for sharing her book with me!

The Story of a Wisconsin Dark-eyed Junco


January 12, 2012

So as I have been promising this is how the junco came to be the Tiny Aviary bird of 2012:

 In a little farm cottage tucked amongst the hills of the Wisconsin driftless region, sat four adults. My daughter Isabel was in bed. It was 10pm and the aforementioned adults, at least 3 of the 4, were struggling a bit to make it to midnight to ring in the new year. After some debate, we decided to pop open the champagne and celebrate with our northern brothers and sisters in Newfoundland, as they were 2 hours ahead of us.

As we sat on a well worn couch and sipped our bubbly, there came a fluttering and scratching at the the large window behind our couch. Tis a quiet and dark location of the world we were in, and thus this modest commotion quite scared the bejeezus out of us. My mind immediately screamed "IT'S A BAT!". This is ridiculous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I adore bats, and have never possessed the hysteria some other individuals like to reserve for these creatures. Funny how the mind works sometimes... I digress.

As we tried to figure out what it could possibly be, it happened again. This time, however, when we turned to look at the window we saw the source of the scuttering: a junco. The junco was not so much flying in to the window as it was flying right up against it. It would fly up and down the window's length, using its claws to aid in climbing. All the while it peered at us. It did this repeatedly. Various hypotheses were tossed about as to why a junco was engaging in this risky, precious energy expending behavior. I mean, it should have been tucked safely away with his junco friends in one of the gigantic pine trees that surround the cottage. Had it been flushed out by an owl? Was it attracted to the light? Did it want to come in a join our little soiree? It was hard not to invite the little fellow in.

We debated as to how we could encourage it to cease its activity and fly off to find a cozy roost. Then it became quiet again, convincing us it had come to its senses and flown off. My husband Jay, however, was skeptical. He took a small flashlight, flicked it on, and directed it to the window sill outside. Sure enough, there sat Confused Junco Buddy. It sat calmly, while arching its neck a bit to be able to look over the window moulding, and peer in at us. Finally, we resorted to shutting off all of the lights, and this seemed to do the trick. So, it was possible that CJB was attracted to the light. Who knows? A little avian mystery for 2012, but we all thought he had earned his right to being Tiny Aviary bird for the year.

About the paintings above: this was a batch I did over the last couple days while waiting to hear back from an illustration client. The wren and junco are sold, but the pair (Nest Egg) is still available here.

Tiny Aviary Winner 2012


January 10, 2012

Even though there have only been a few Tiny Aviary contests, it gets harder each time to draw a winner. There are so many that I would just like to give this painting to as I know how supportive some of you have been over the last years by commenting on posts and buying my work. So to remove any bias I might have had in the drawing, I enlisted the help of Isabel. It may look a little messy from the photo, but  she was able to pick just one and hand it to mama. 

Congratulations to Rebecca! Please contact me with your shipping info.

Junco story coming up next.

Tiny Aviary Bird of 2012: Dark-eyed Junco


January 05, 2012

Sorry... not posting the winner yet. I ran out of time this week. But at least I thought you should see the painting. A Dark-eyed Junco was not the first bird I saw New Year's morning. It was a Blue Jay. But I can tell you that little Junco earned its place in 2012 for the Tiny Aviary. Have a lovely weekend, and check back on Monday or Tuesday for the winner, and the junco's story.

Happy New Year!


January 02, 2012

I'm back from the blustery charms of southwestern Wisconsin. Our time there was too short, as always, but it was a special year in that we were able to introduce Isabel to this cherished tradition of ours. 

I saw many birds, and one that I will be doing a painting of as Tiny Aviary's bird of 2012. I have a busy week of catching up with work deadlines, but I am hoping to get the painting finished and draw a winner for the giveaway by the end of this week. Stay tuned.

I hope you all had a wonderful start to this new year!

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